U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro ruled Monday the case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy would be dismissed “with prejudice,” and ordered the rancher set free after federal prosecutors willfully withheld exculpatory evidence during the 2017 trial.
Navarro ruled a mistrial in the Bundy case last month after prosecutors “willful[ly]” withheld exculpatory evidence favorable to the four men on trial: Cliven Bundy, his two sons, and one other person. The judge found that prosecutors had violated the defendant’s civil rights and violated federal law by hiding evidence from the court.
After the mistrial, Navarro set a Jan. 8, date to decide whether the case against Bundy would be retried or dismissed “with prejudice,” barring a retrial over the same charges.
Prosecutors requested the court grant another trial against the Bundys, calling their missteps and violations “inadvertent.”
“The Brady violations found by the court are regrettable and benefit no one,” Nevada’s Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre wrote in the legal brief, according to The Oregonian. “But because the government neither flagrantly violated nor recklessly disregarded its obligations, the appropriate remedy for such violations is a new trial.”
The Department of Justice, under orders from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is currently investigating the federal prosecutors involved in the 2017 Bundy trial for misconduct.
Prosecutors, led by Myhre, dismissed several claims from Bundy attorneys that evidence was being hidden from the court during the trial.
The defense claimed FBI snipers and surveillance were monitoring the Bundy household prior to the 2014 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) raid to remove the rancher’s cattle from federal land after decades of unpaid grazing fees. Cliven Bundy sent out a plea for help based on the snipers’ presence, prompting dozens of armed militiamen to meet at the ranch.
Prosecutors said snipers were not involved, called the claim “fantastical” and the defendants’ request for the evidence, a “fishing expedition.” However, the U.S. Attorney’s Office possessed video evidence the entire time, The Oregonian reports.
Prosecutors also withheld federal assessments that found the Bundy family was not likely to be violent, but only “get in your face.” Other federal assessments of the BLM revealed the agency was targeting the Bundy family, “trying to provoke a conflict.” (RELATED: REPORT: Fed Agency Committed ‘Militaristic’ Operation Against Nevada Rancher)
Defense attorneys asked federal prosecutors to hand over Inspector General reports on BLM agent Dan Love, who directed the agency’s raid on the Bundy ranch. Love was fired from the agency in September for corruption and unethical behavior.
Prosecutors had dismissed the allegations and investigations of Love as an “urban legend,” but ended up handing over 500 pages worth of reports on Love in December, according to The Oregonian.